Rugby Piutau looks set to miss World Cup in Japan
IT looks very unlikely that Charles Piutau will be playing in the World Cup. The Bristol Bears star is desperate to feature in the tournament next year and had hoped to represent Tonga in Japan.
However, the former All-Black has been given the bad news by the Tongan coach Toutai Kefu.
Kefu said: “It got ruled out a couple of months ago.
“We were actively exploring a group of players, not just Charles, that were in the same boat and whether we could qualify them before the World Cup, and we can’t.
“First of all they’ve got to sit out three years, which Charles has, and a group of other guys have.
“The next process is we have to qualify them in an Olympic qualifying Sevens tournament and the only one that’s available to us is after the World Cup.
“We looked into trying to move that tournament to before the World Cup and were unsuccessful in doing that.”
Meanwhile, Bears assistant coach Conor McPhillips says Bristol won’t be taking tomorrow’s opposition, La Rochelle, lightly at Ashton Gate.
The Bears defeated Leicester Tigers 41-10 at the weekend but McPhillips expects a difficult challenge from the French side.
“La Rochelle have taken the Top 14 by storm in the last couple of years and they are a massive counter attack team,” he said.
“They love to throw the ball around, they’ve got a good back three and half-backs, including Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who has played for the All Blacks.
“So, I think they are slightly dif- ferent to your average French team. They’re still massive, but I think they play with a lot more ball in hand, so that is a big focus for us. We don’t want to kick loosely, and when we do kick, we need to get our chase right.
“It’s a chance to develop our game further, but we’ll be aiming for a quarter-final in Europe and that’s something we’ll definitely be focused on.”
Mat Protheroe says he is ready to get out there again having missed nearly 11 months with a knee injury.
He said: “It’s a long season, so I’ll hopefully get some opportunity as it progresses. When that chance does come, I’ll be ready to take it.
“I experienced playing at Ashton Gate in front of our amazing supporters last season, so I can’t wait for that chance to come around again.
McPhillips added: “All going well, Mat Protheroe and Luke Daniels will be coming back from longterm injuries. Mat (Protheroe) played 40 minutes against Harlequins in the Premiership Shield at the weekend, and he came through that really well, so he’ll be up for selection in the back three.
“He’s been training excellently in the last month and he’s champing at the bit. So, for all involved, coaches, S&C, medical, they will all have big smiles on their faces seeing Proth out there.”
Bristol Bears’ Charles Piutau is tackled by Leicester’s Tatafu Polota-Nau during last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership match at Ashton Gate